Review by Fiona Duncan, published 27th October 2011.
There are many good things about this hotel, indeed about the whole Mint Hotel chain. A few negatives, but on the whole I’d rather stay here than at the similarly priced Malmaison Leeds. There are similarities: they are both large, busy, city-centre hotels catering for the mainly business, mid-price “affordable luxury” market, with competitive, constantly changing room rates. But the people who own Mint are patrons of music and the arts and their approach is mercifully restrained and ungimmicky in a way that puts the requirements of its guests first and its brand second, whereas the owners of Malmaison write on their website: “Daring… that’s what we’re all about… for one night you are the star, you can be who you want to be… we won’t whisper a dickie bird… that is Mal life”.
When is someone going to tell them that “mal” means bad in French?
Mint Hotels used to be City Inns; they changed the name overnight, a year ago, the original having been too redolent of budget hotels. They have purpose-built properties in London (their new Tower of London hotel looks sensational), Bristol, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, and now Amsterdam.
The hotels are clean-lined, simple and stylish, accented by good modern art and Apple computers in every room. Decoration in the bedrooms verges on the anodyne (a sudden splash of colour, when it appears, makes a huge difference) but there are floor-to-ceiling windows that actually open, breezy air-conditioning that uses fresh air from outside and heats or cools at the touch of a button, mist-free mirrors and White Company products. Shame about the ropy old towelling robes in my room, one stained with red dye.
I love the location, part of a regeneration programme around Granary Wharf. Arriving at the station (the hotel has parking for drivers), you walk to the hotel and its new plaza through Victorian Granary Wharf Arches, right under the railway lines, through wrought-iron gates and across the metal bridge that spans the rushing River Aire.
Emerge from the arches and you are in a watery, urban industrial setting: railway station elevated on one side, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, complete with locks, on the other, gleaming new high-rise buildings all around. The Mint makes the most of the surroundings, with fine views from all the rooms, especially the upper ones and the Skylounge bar on the top (13th) floor.
You may find a noisy party in progress in the Skylounge bar; the seating too low in the ground-floor Granary Bar; a queue for a place at breakfast in the City Café (which also doubles as the restaurant and where I had a perfectly decent steak and salad).
You may find, as I did, that the welcome at the busy reception desk is perfunctory and the service in the Skylounge disorganised, but dig a bit deeper and there are some friendly characters in this hotel, especially on the guest services desk. Khalid, from Morocco, whom I asked for a show-round, couldn’t have been more helpful or informative.